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Do you try to relax only to feel more stressed and overwhelmed?
You’re not alone.
You’re experiencing Stresslaxation.
Stresslaxation is a term for relaxation-induced anxiety—and it has been studied for years. According to the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, approximately 30-50% of people experience feelings of stress when they attempt to do relaxing things. This then creates more stress since de-stressing attempts don’t work. And the cycle continues.
Why does Stresslaxation occur?
And how do we heal it?
How Stresslaxation Begins
First, it’s helpful to unpack your relationship with achievement. What do you want to achieve? Why do you want to achieve? What motivates you? In my leadership and culture coaching work I often find my clients are passionate about their work for several reasons (see which apply to you):
- They want to make a difference and create something meaningful to help others
- They want the praise and recognition of a job well done, and/or something cool they’ve created
- They are on a mission to make the world a better place
- They want the joy they expect to feel from sheer accomplishment
Any combination of the above can cause us to potentially diminish the power and importance of relaxation, of being “unproductive” for periods of time so we can rejuvenate ourselves. Do you ever feel this way? I sure used to!
Second, it’s key to be OK being stressed. When we deny that we’re stressed, when we resist the feelings of it, we teach our body to stay in stress mode. This results in increased heart rate, hypervigilance in our body and brain, and the excessive flow of adrenaline. All of this makes it even harder to relax and slow down to recover from the stress. Use our Emotion Wheel below to check in throughout the day to see how you are feeling.
How To Cure It
The key is to realize you have Stresslaxation. Next, let’s find some fun things to do so you form a “bridge” between feeling productive (“working”) and feeling unproductive (“relaxing”). Check out this graphic from TheEnergyProject.com:
Notice the 2 axes. Notice where you “land” when you’re in High Output. Are you in Stress or in Performance? Your emotional state (how you feel) will tell you. Now look at how you feel when you have chill time. Are you exhausted and hopeless in Burnout, or do you feel carefree and relieved in Rejuvenation? If you want to move into the Rejuvenation quadrant, the easiest way is to create a bridge, as I mentioned above. Find a chilling activity that feels a bit like accomplishment initially (like reading a book or cooking). As you allocate chill time that’s enjoyable and has a smidge of accomplishment to it, you’ll be able to then experiment with pure, simple down time with no sense of accomplishment (like wandering in nature).
All we want to do is to make relaxing easy. And having a few “go to” activities that you love will take the stress out of “what can I do to relax?”.
Test it out and let me know how it goes. You’ll be moving from Stresslaxation to Chillaxation in no time!